Last week, we began our discussion of the sacraments with a lesson on the sacraments in general; starting today, and over the next 12 weeks, we'll look at each of the sacraments in turn (as well as some related questions).
First up is the first sacrament any of us receive, which is why it is often called "the door of the Church": the Sacrament of Baptism.
Baptism is the prerequisite for all the other sacraments; it is our entrance into the Christian life. Baptism removes the stain of sin, both original and actual, so that we can enter Heaven, if we live holy lives. If we remain unbaptized, we cannot enter Heaven. But baptism does not have to take the form of the baptism of water, which is what we normally mean by the Sacrament of Baptism. There are two other kinds of baptism, and both baptism of blood (martyrdom) and baptism of desire have the same effects as the baptism of water, provided that we are unable to receive the sacrament.
The Sacrament of Baptism is normally administered by a priest, but in an emergency, anyone can baptize--even a non-Christian! All that is necessary is that the form be correct--pouring water on the head of the person to be baptized and saying, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"--and that the person performing the baptism intend by his action what the Church intends in baptizing (namely, to bring the person being baptized into the Church).
In the Catholic Church, baptism is normally administered to infants. Because such children are too young to make the promises that we make in baptism (chief among them to renounce Satan and all his works and pomps), godparents are chosen who make those promises on their behalf. Along with the saint whose name the child is given in baptism, the godparents bear a particular responsibility for guiding the spiritual life of the child.
Baptism, as was mentioned in Question 148 and Question 149 of last week's lesson, can be received only once, because it leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Therefore, converts to the Catholic Church who received baptism in another Christian denomination are not "rebaptized" but, instead, receive the Sacrament of Confirmation as the mark of their entry into the fullness of Christ's Church. And next week, we'll turn our attention to confirmation.
In the First Communion Catechism, the parallel lesson this week is Lesson Twelfth. It includes 5 questions drawn from Lesson Fourteenth of the Confirmation Catechism.
- Welcome to Sunday School!
- On God and His Perfections
- On the Unity and Trinity of God
- On Creation
- On Our First Parents and the Fall
- On Sin and Its Kinds
- On the Incarnation and Redemption
- On Our Lord's Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension
- On the Holy Ghost and His Descent Upon the Apostles
- On the Effects of the Redemption
- On the Church
- On the Attributes and Marks of the Church
- On the Sacraments in General